'The Handmaid's Tale' star Amanda Brugel on finding success in her 40s: "It doesn’t end, it only begins"

By: Sarah Trumbley

She wrote her university thesis on Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. So it follows that for actress Amanda Brugel, being a part of the hit TV drama based on the book is a dream come true. “It has been such a part of my DNA,” says the Montreal native, who plays Rita – one of the Marthas, or servants, on the dystopian series – and has nothing but admiration for the Canadian author. “She’s such a brilliant writer and has a brilliant mind,” says Amanda, 41. “She doesn’t know it, but she’s my best friend!”

Here, the busy actress – who is also a newly minted brand ambassador for Birks jewellers – chats with Hello! about season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, and gets candid about her life with husband Marcel Lewis and their boys, Jude, 7, and Phoenix, 3.

Tell us a bit about Rita. What can fans expect from her in season 2?
Well, she was always a curious character, because people didn’t know what side she stood on … But you find out, definitely by the end of the season, whether or not she stands for humanity or [the regime of] Gilead. There are also a few insights into her strength is all I’ll say.

Considering your fondness for Margaret Atwood, was sharing the stage with her at this year’s Emmys a total “pinch me” moment?
Yes! We sat beside one another and walked arm in arm up to the stage, where we received the award from Oprah. I mean, you can’t be surrounded by more iconic women north and south of the border! So, it was a dream, and I floated for about a month afterward.

Some days you and the cast film until 4:30 in the morning. How do you de-stress after a long day of work?
Oh gosh. That’s an interesting question because I have two young children, so I don’t normally [de-stress]! [ Laughs] It sounds so “actor-y“ but I try to make it to the gym. Not that it’s my favourite place in the world – but because there’s no kids, no husbands, no phones. It’s just me and the treadmill!

You turned 41 a few weeks ago – happy belated birthday! How have your 40s been treating you?
The fact that my 40th year was my most successful year – as an actor, but I think also as a mother and wife – just really shows how much is changing. It doesn’t end at 40, it only begins, as far as I’m concerned.

Amanda stars alongside Elisabeth Moss, who plays June. Photo: © Bell Media

Did you do anything special when you turned 40?
We went to Malibu, [where] my husband proposed. We went back to the exact spot, the exact rock where he proposed and we brought our kids and we had a picnic and champagne and ran into the ocean and it was the most magical day.

You and your husband will also be celebrating 10 years of marriage this year. What’s your secret to a successful love story?
Oh, for goodness sakes, it’s hard! Just continuing to make time for each other … as a couple. Sometimes you feel guilty because you want to take the kids with you, or work gets involved … But just shutting out all of the noise and [spending time] as a couple is the most helpful thing. Because you started as a twosome, so you have to fight to remain a twosome just to keep strong.

Amanda plays the character Rita. Photo: © Bell Media

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